An unauthorised encampment is not specific to an ethnicity – it relates to any encampment on land that hasn’t been authorised by the landowner.
A nomadic way of life is not illegal. It is important to remember that some groups (such as Roma, Gypsies and travellers) have lived this way for hundreds of years and it is a way of life for them.
Some UEs exist for a matter of days without notice, while others can be longer and have a greater impact on the local community.
What happens when an unauthorised encampment occurs?
In the first instance it is the landowner’s responsibility to resolve the issue and come to an agreement with those who have moved onto the land.
There are certain laws that can be used to move groups on who are there without permission.
When should I call the police?
Notify the police if you see a crime taking place or there is significant anti-social behaviour or disorderly conduct. The police will make an assessment whether there is a need for them to attend or not.
There are a number of specific powers the police can use relating to a UE. Responsibility for a UE largely sits with the landowner which may be the local authority. The local authority has separate legislated powers to deal with UEs.
Officers will be made aware of an UE and support the landowner in how best to resolve the situation. If there is no significant damage, disruption or distress the trespassing would be a civil matter between the landowner and occupier and not a criminal offence.
When is an offence committed?
Within the legislation an offence is generally committed when either:
a group/individual has been given a request/direction to leave the land and fail to comply with this or,
the group/individual who were given a direction to leave return to the same piece of land within twelve months
What is Section 60C?
Section 60C gives the landowner, their representative or police the power to make a request that the encampment leave when there has been or is likely to be significant damage, disruption or distress. It is for the police and courts to determine what amounts to significant and as such police will attend and work with the landowner regarding this new offence and any request being made.
What is Section 61?
Section 61 gives police the power to direct an encampment to leave once the landowner has made reasonable steps to remove the occupants, and certain conditions are met.
These conditions are that there must be two or more trespassers on land with the common purpose of residing and
The group/individual has with them 6 or more vehicles, or
The group/individual has caused damage, disruption or distress
In addition to these conditions, the National Police Chief’s Council has set out clear guidelines before police use their powers under S61.
What’s Section 62a and why will transit sites help?
Currently there are no transit sites in the county of Surrey. Where a transit site is available in a relevant local authority area, Section 62A of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows the police to direct the occupants of a UE to leave the land and attend the transit site.
Why can’t you arrest people when offences are reported?
If we receive reports of criminal offences, these are treated in exactly the same way as any other report. If there is sufficient evidence to identify those responsible, we will investigate the offence and seek the right outcome. Police will use their powers in accordance with legislation that governs our power to arrest individuals.